Georgia Teens Become Disney Dreamers
By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 3/21/2014, 1:55 p.m.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Going to Disney World is the ultimate dream for many teenagers. For a select few, the experience includes so much more than enjoying the rides.
Recently, the seventh annual Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE magazine hosted 100 teenagers and their parents/guardians from throughout the United States for an all-expensed paid four-day weekend experience.
It included career and mentoring workshops, featuring celebrities and leading professionals, such as Magic Johnson, educator Dr. Steve Perry, Michelle Ebanks, president of ESSENCE Communications and many other notables.
The seven Georgia teens included Atlanta students Kiara Davis and Diamond Stewart, as well as Justin Bell (Douglasville), Jordan Fisher (Jonesboro), Keza Kasende (Buford), Christina Lucas (Roswell), and Jevon McCastle (Valdosta).
There were 10,000 applicants, which only one percent of them made it to the Magical Kingdom…and all for a special reason.
Justin Bell, a 17-year-old dreamer, founded Helping Individuals Needing Transplants, which is a nonprofit organization that supports organ transplant and dialysis patients.
A couple years ago, Bell and his family were notified that his mother, Natalie, had severe kidney failure. Bell accompanied his mother to her dialysis clinic, and it was at this visit that would be the catalyst for his HINT Foundation.
“I saw people that were sad and physically in pain,” he told The Atlanta Voice. “And I just wanted to uplift their spirits.”
So, Bell took that emotion and turned into something tangible and inspiring.
“One of the things that the doctor told me was had my mother not been on dialysis, she would have had less than two months to live,” Bell added.
Now, his mother is active, from work to furthering her education.
“I am truly proud of Justin and his accomplishments,” Natalie told The Atlanta Voice. “My husband and I raised him to love God and have a sense of service to others. He has a heart for sharing, and wants to give back to his community.”
And that is exactly what he is doing. But he has bigger dreams still ahead of him.
“My dream is to go out into other places in the world, and create dialysis clinics,” he said about his plans to expand HINT global.
Bell was one of several Georgia teens learning and inspiring others at the Academy.
Diamond Stewart found the experience to be an opportunity for her to come out of her introverted shell.
“When I got here, it allowed me to see that people go through the exact same thing I did,” she told The Atlanta Voice.
For the 16-year-old Stewart, being quiet and withdrawn socially at school was her coping mechanism in dealing with a world she grew to fear out of traumatic personal experiences.
But Steve Harvey and his group of accomplished professionals changed her outlook.
“[The Academy] allowed me to see people who already accomplished their dreams, which motivates me to do the same thing,” she said. “I’m going to show more determination and more hard work for what I want.”